Truly Catholic Deeply

If you want to see a truly Catholic movie watch Hardball with Keanu Reeves. It’s not about a saint. It’s about a sinner.

Reeves plays Connor O’Neil, a young guy with just about every problem you can get: unemployed, gambling addict, drink problem, drugs problem, truth problem…you name it.

To avoid the guys with the baseball bats who are threatening to do some instant orthodontics, Connor takes a job coaching a little league team in the projects. Eventually he learns some responsibility, some self respect and pride. He finds redemption.

Why do I think this is such a Catholic movie? Well to start with, it’s loaded with Catholic imagery. In the first scene we see Connor stumble into a beautiful Catholic Church swilling drink. He collapses into a pew and starts to pray. We see the church, we see a crucifix, we see a close up of the Divine Mercy. Then a priest asks Connor if he is seeking forgiveness. Connor says he is just asking for enough money to pay the bookie.

From there things look up. Connor is offered a way out coaching the team. Later, just as the plot turns there is a wordless scene where we see Connor in his room in front of the mirror. He’s looking hard at himself. On the dresser in front of him is a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. He thinks for a moment, then takes the miraculous medal from around the statue and kisses it, puts it on, then dons his shades and exits. Not a word, not a sermon, but a clear indication that Connor has returned to his faith.

The other, truer and deeper reason, this is a Catholic film, is that the truth is incarnated fully. There’s no sermon tacked on the end like a little moral. There’s no scene where the screenwriter feels obliged to put his sermon into the mouth of one of the characters. Instead we see Connor working out his salvation in fear and trembling. We see him make mistakes and finally triumph.

Finally, this is a triumphantly Catholic film because it shows the triumph of love and redemption. Connor is redeemed because he learns how to give. He learns how to listen. He learns how to love. Like every true love story, the hero is redeemed by an innocent sacrifice. Watch the film and see if you can keep a dry eye when you see what happens to G-baby.

I won’t give it away. If you don’t know this little film get it. In my opinion it ranks right up there with Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan and Babette’s Feast as a film that incarnates the eternal Christian truth.

  • DGus

    From your description, the movie sounds remarkably devoid of the Gospel. I assume that a person who already knows and believes the Gospel, and who is inclined to assume that the Gospel is implicated when Christian symbols are present, will find his faith ratified in this movie. (So attending the movie could be a good experience, and a blessing.) But in this movie, on the face of it, the Gospel seems to remain hidden to those who are lost.

  • http://kidsister.wordpress.com/ Anne

    Thanks Father… this sounds like a great movie. I’ve wish listed it for a future kids birthday.

  • Mike

    Shame on you Father, you revealed the entire plot of the movie. Did you ever consider being a movie critic? Got to see this movie. Keep on blogging Father, you do a great job.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    DGus. The movie does not preach the gospel as such. You will have to view one of the films provided by the Billy Graham Association for that. Instead, as the best dramatic and storytelling craft always does, it incarnates the gospel.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr. Jay Scott Newman

    dgus,The Lord of the Rings does not mention the one, only, living and true God a single time, and yet in a very real sense, it is a profoundly Catholic work of literature. Indeed, there is an entire corpus of scholarly work explaining just how this is so…staring with Tolkien himself. The same could be said in different ways of the work of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. As a rule, art is very good at planting the seeds of the Word by awakening us to the Good, the True, and the Beautfil, and in this way, we are prepared for the Gospel when we hear it preached explicitly. My own conversion to Christ, I am convinced, depended upon the effect in my soul of reading The Lord of the Rings seven times before the moment of grace which opened my mind and heart to the Gospel. So, I’m with Fr Dwight on this one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05491200467580387532 Alexa

    Yeah!

  • DGus

    Fr. DL: You said,”He finds redemption…. Connor is redeemed because he learns how to give. He learns how to listen. He learns how to love.”This happens without Gospel, without mention of Jesus Christ. Doesn’t it sound rather Pelagian? He’s redeemed by getting his act together?It’s fine to have Christian art that isn’t a Christian tract–even Christian art in which the Gospel is not stated. But art that depicts redemption without Jesus is not Christian.I don’t much care for that sneer about “the films provided by the Billy Graham Association.” I’d rather have flat-footed sermon movies than high art that depicts redemption with Jesus. We could all take a lesson in what’s critical from the BGA.

  • Jeron

    It’s now in my blockbuster Q

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Dgus. Sneer? What sneer. I must have misunderstood. I thought you wanted a movie in which the gospel was preached. Billy Graham movies do that very well. If that’s what people want they should watch them. I’m serious. They do the evangelical preaching movie very well. The redemption that happens in ‘Hardball’ is redemption through Christ. Watch the movie. At the beginning he goes into church. We see a crucifix. We see the image of the Divine Mercy,we meet a priest who says he will pray for Connor, and through the conversation, we realize that Connor is looking for salvation. Later in the film we see him make a conscious choice to renew his faith when he kisses the miraculous medal and puts it on again. We don’t actually see him go back to confession or go back to Mass, but there are enough visual signs to show that he is not only redeemed by his love for the kids and their love for him, but we also see that supernatural grace is at work through the circumstances of his life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15692229876291491107 Mark

    On my list now. Thanks, Father.


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